Next month, fledgling playwrights from all over the Boston Metro will converge on BPT for the annual New Noises festival of ten-minute plays. New Noises showcases work developed in the Massachusetts Young Playwrights' Project (MYPP), which sends mentor playwrights into area high schools; student playwrights whose plays are selected for the festival are partnered with professional directors and actors. Technically, the result of these collaborations is two days of staged readings...but really, the result is two days of magic.
I look forward to MYPP each year, and always find myself energized by the intense creative spirit, enthusiasm, and sheer talent of the high school students involved. Alum Michael Towers agreed to share a little about his experience working with students at Revere High School this year:
It was nearly 5:00 on Thursday, February 9th when the school day ended for eight Revere High School students. They weren’t in detention. They weren’t in rehearsal for an upcoming production or at practice for a varsity sport. They weren’t even receiving course credit for the extra work hours behind a desk. The students seated in Ms. Rice’s third floor classroom for an extended school day were there for one reason alone: they want to be playwrights.
|Mentor: Michael Towers (Asa Photographic)|
When teachers Ms. Sara Rice and Mr. George Hannah opened an invitation to the entire school to join them in a new play production initiative that would feature the original works of Revere High School students, they weren’t sure what to expect. The response not only pleased them, it made them proud. And with good reason. Today I met with nine enthusiastic and committed playwrights. Long before my arrival, each playwright had been given a writing prompt and had been paired with a faculty member who will serve as their personal mentor throughout the process. (Time out. Wow. Good for you Revere High School. Or should I say: Lucky you. Lucky for you that you have such innovative educators who truly care about their students. And lucky you that you have students who are seizing learning opportunities outside the school day without the promise of course accountability or credit. Either way: Wow. Time in.)
Given the prompt of Bullying for inspiration, the playwrights were encouraged to explore their own experience and craft a ten-minute play. From here, the process will continue with play readings, casting, and revisions through an active workshop of their piece. In addition to their involvement in the New Noises experience at BPT in early April, the playwrights will ultimately enjoy a fully realized performance of their work in May: the final stage of the plan as conceived by Ms. Rice and Mr. Hannah.
I was struck by so many moments on my visit.
The young woman who greeted me at the door asking, “Are you our playwright guest? Because that’s really what I want to be.”
The essential question emblazoned on the wall of the classroom wall that read: What can we learn about ourselves and about humanity from literature?
The incredibly diverse backgrounds and interests that compel these students. The languages that they speak (from Italian to French to Arabic.) The instruments that they play (from percussion to guitar.) Their ART beyond the theater (from dance to film to the brilliant pencil sketch of Hamlet that hung on the wall.) The images of being on the Cross Country team and training by running through the busy city streets. And of course…the love of eating….just about anything.
But most of all, I was struck by these nine students. Choosing to sit in a classroom on a beautiful day beyond school hours. Intent. Creative. Ready to work. And ready to risk.
They want to be playwrights? They don’t know it yet, but they already are.